File Photo GAC kicker Brandon Holzgrefe (7) kicks the ball as Harrison Kerr (82) holds for him during a game earlier this season.
GAC at Heard County
GAC Spartans (6-AA)
Coach: Tim Hardy
Last week: Beat Model 35-6
Heard County Braves (5-AA)
Coach: Tim Barron
Last week: Beat Rabun County 56-29
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
Directions to Heard County High School: Take I-85 south to exit 47 toward Newnan/Shenandoah. Turn left on Ga. 34/West Bullsboro Rd. Turn right on Ga. 34 bypass/Millard Farmers Industrial Blvd. Turn right on Ga. 34. Turn left on Main Street. School is on left.
After a morning workout and practice Tuesday, GAC head coach Tim Hardy joked with his players that they were like a professional football team, all football, all the time.
It's the fun of preparing for a second round playoff game with a week off of school, but also just how Hardy's Spartans performed in their first-round win over Model last week.
Instead of playing down to the level of their competition, GAC used the week to improve, getting playoff experience for a young team and getting players healthy.
They dressed, but didn't play, the team's leader rusher, Kyle Scales.
The 1,000-yard back was ready to play if needed, but with the help of 129 yards and a touchdown from Micah Abernathy, Scales rested comfortably on the sideline.
"It was good for Kyle not to be used," Hardy said. "He should be close to 100 percent (tonight). Micah Abernathy did a great job. He's a talented guy. Both of those guys are going to be ready to roll."
And comfortable with a big workload against Class AA varsity competition, every bit of experience helps.
"Both those guys are battle-tested," Hardy said.
And GAC expects a battle Friday night at Heard County.
The Braves are unbeaten and are putting up more than 40 points a game. They've only scored less than 40 twice this season.
"They run a bunch of different ways and use a variety of guys to do it," Hardy said "They are playing with a lot of confidence."
Heard County attacks mostly on the ground, with a wing-T type attack, making the Braves offensive output all the more impressive.
"Their team quickness is more of a strength then their size," Hardy said. "They have had a ton of big plays, explosive plays."
Junior running back Ta Freeland rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries last week, and sophomore Duranta Dunson surpassed 1,500 yards on the season with 171 yards and two scores on 15 carries against Rabun County.
"They have quick and shifty ball carriers," Hardy said. "The big tenant of defense is you want to eliminate big plays. Part of playing defense against them is we need to be successful and methodical on offense."
That starts with the return of Scales but also puts the onus on quarterback Rafe Chapple. Chapple threw for 162 yards and three scores last week, rushing for another score.
This is another long road trip for the Spartans, who played in Chattanooga early this season. They leave early today, will eat together near Heard County and then play in their first second-round playoff game since 2010.
"We are keeping that rhythm, which is good," Hardy said.